The suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Usman, has dismissed media reports suggesting that the NPA management under her watch breached NPA rules and exempted Dangote Group of companies from paying certain statutory charges at the Onne Ports, in River State.
“I wish to state with all emphasis that these accusations are false and mischievous,” she said in a statement.
Giving background to the directive, Usman said: “In 2018, the Authority wrote the Federal Government and they approved the decategorisation of Onne Ports as the solely designated oil and gas terminal in Nigeria, only oil and gas cargoes called at the ports, contrary to global practices in the maritime industry.
“For reasons, which included national security, ease of doing business as well as the need for Nigeria to embrace international best practices, this oil and gas monopoly was removed in 2018, with the effect that all categories of cargoes could call at the Onne Ports. This means that importers could choose and have their cargoes delivered at any of our port locations regardless of what their consignments were.
“With that decision, it followed that tariffs must be reviewed to reflect the specific category of cargo being imported as opposed to the rates that existed when the Onne Ports received only oil and gas cargoes.
“This reality got more urgent when the congestion at the two ports in Lagos became worsened by uncleared cargoes meant for construction at the Petrochemicals Refining Gas and Fertilizer project of the Dangote Groups at the Lekki Free Trade Zone. At a point, the company wrote to inform the Authority that it was expecting 60,000 containers and 1,000,000 metric tonnes Break Bulk cargo. If these were allowed to proceed to Lagos, it would have turned into an emergency.
“To avert this situation and give the ports in Lagos some respite, the Authority advised Dangote and other importers to utilise the Onne Ports, which has then been decategorised from being an exclusive oil and gas facility.
“Let me reiterate that this decision, alongside every other one taken by the Executive Management Team under my leadership was in the best interest of Nigeria. We also considered ensuring ease of doing business for people who transact business at our ports. I consider it unfortunate that anyone would attempt to play on the intelligence of Nigerians by twisting the facts especially when they are harmed with the letter.“
She continued: “Even the letter dated February 5, 2019(published in the media report), communicating the Authority’s decision on this subject to the management of Intels Nigeria Limited states in the last paragraph: “Hence, the Authority therefore directs that all cargoes of Messers Dangote Industries Limited and indeed all importers being directed to Onne port for customs clearance, specifically for these projects, and are multi-purpose in nature to be treated by applying the same operational rates used by other multi-purpose terminals.”